Last night the Phillies defeated the Washington Nationals by a score of 4-3. The big win was in a large part due to the strategic game plan around reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. Harper, who bats third for the Nationals, came into the first game of the series yesterday with a league leading 9 home runs and 23 RBIs. So basically unless you play for Washington, the guy is a huge problem. Because of this, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin knew he had to be prepared and spoke about the idea of limiting Harper after the game. “I’m going to walk him every time we face him this series”, Mackanin said in a sarcastic voice. “No, I’m kidding. That’s a joke” Well, as far as last night goes, it doesn’t seem like that was a joke, or at least not a very funny one. Philadelphia walked Harper three times in the first game of the series, two of them being intentional. Although Harper did end up hitting an RBI single off of Vince Velasquez in the fifth inning, for the most part he was held in check.
The young slugger did happen to make a plate performance in the ninth inning at a point in the game where an intentional walk was not an option. “I wasn’t going to walk him and put the tying run on second base”, stated Mackanin. Harper was able to foul off a couple pitches for an exciting at-bat but Phillies relief pitcher Jeanmar Gomez was eventually able to force a ground out to third base earning his fifth save on the year. Harper wasn’t content with his performance. “Pretty upset I didn’t get the ball on the barrel. I had some pitches that I could have drove and just didn’t make it happen”, he spoke with distaste. “I think you can’t hit a homer every time but I definitely had two or three pitches I could have drove out of the yard and just fouled them straight back.” Harper also talked about his faith and confidence in his teammates regarding Philadelphia’s strategy to walk him early on. “I have really big faith in the guys behind me”, he uttered. “I don’t mind getting on base”.
As for the Phillies offense, much of the firepower came thanks to 2B Andres Blanco. He recorded three hits and a two run home run. He also scored the go ahead run off of Maikel Franco‘s seventh inning double. Franco ended up stumbling and collapsing after rounding first base, although he was able to get up and make it to second. He was later checked out by a trainer and appeared to be okay, which is a sigh of relief for the Phillies moving forward.
Velasquez received the win which improves his record to 3-1 on the season. The Phillies now get prepared to play game two of the series tonight in Washington where Jeremy Hellickson (1-1 , 5.21 ERA) will get the nod. First pitch is at 7:05 PM ET. Tune in.